Sumatra Coffee: What Makes It Different?

If you’re a coffee enthusiast searching for a rich and unique brew, Sumatra Coffee might just be your next favorite.

So, let’s dive into the heart of Sumatra coffee. You and I’ll explore its origins, unique flavors, and special processing methods that make it stand out.

Here, I’ll address your curiosities and offer insights into what makes Sumatra Coffee a standout choice.

What is Sumatra Coffee?

Sumatra coffee refers to coffee produced on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. This is the sixth largest island globally and home to over 50 million people in Indonesia. Coffee cultivation on this island dates back to 1884 and has since become renowned for its flavorful Sumatra coffee.

Sumatra Coffee stands out for its excellent quality and distinctive taste.

This coffee is famous for its rich, smooth taste with low acidity, reflecting the wild nature of the region’s jungles. When you sip it, you might notice flavors like chocolate, creating a rich and balanced taste with a smooth.

Where is Sumatra Coffee From?

Sumatra, Indonesia’s second largest island, is home to the outstanding Sumatra Mandheling coffee. This coffee comes from the Batak region near Mount Leuser in West Central Sumatra.

The coffee farms are located high up on the volcanic slopes, at elevations ranging from 2,500 to 5,000 feet. So, this high altitude, along with Sumatra’s warm, humid climate and rich volcanic soil, sets up ideal conditions for growing coffee.

The beans of Sumatra Mandheling coffee are known for their unique deep blue-green color, like jade. Especially, this distinctive hue comes from the “Gilling Basah” or wet-hulling process in its production.

The natural drying method gives Sumatra coffee a full body and concentrated flavor, enriched with herbal and spicy notes.

Historically, Indonesia, including Sumatra, exported most of its coffee through Jakarta, Java’s capital. The popularity of these beans was so high that “java” became synonymous.

However, many didn’t know that a significant was actually from Sumatra. Although the bags were labeled “Java”, it was Sumatran coffee that was enjoyed around the world.

Facts About Sumatra Coffee

  • Origin: Sumatra, Indonesia
  • Growing Altitude: 800-1,500 meters above sea level
  • Bean Varieties: Mostly Arabica, some Robusta
  • Harvesting Period: October to May
  • Process: Giling Basha

What Sets Sumatra Coffee Apart?

Sumatra’s coffee is unique globally for two key reasons: great growing conditions and a special processing method.

First off, the growing conditions. Sumatra has volcanic soil, high mountains, and natural farming. This mix creates the best conditions for growing coffee. The coffee plants have a longer time to grow, so the beans get rich and complex flavors.

Now, the Giling Basah Processing. In this method, farmers remove the coffee cherry’s outer skin while it’s still wet. This step cuts down the acidity and gives Sumatran coffee its special taste.

Lastly, there’s small-batch roasting. Local roasters roast the beans in small amounts. This careful roasting highlights the unique flavors, making Sumatran coffee loved worldwide.

Flavor Profile

Sumatra’s coffee regions, known for their rich flavors, each bring something special to the coffee world. Let’s dive into what makes Mandheling, Lintong, and Aceh unique and beloved by coffee enthusiasts.

Sumatra Mandheling Coffee

  • Origin: Grows in Sumatra’s west-central area, near Padang.
  • Body: Known for a smooth, heavy, and sometimes syrup-like consistency.
  • Acidity: It’s on the lower side, which adds a unique twist to its complex flavor profile.
  • Flavors: So, it mainly flaunts rich chocolate notes, sometimes mixed with licorice and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. It’s important to note that the term ‘spices’ here refers to these aromatic herbs, not to spicy heat.
  • Growing Altitude: Thrives at heights ranging from 2,500 to 5,000 feet. This altitude range means some of these coffees meet the criteria for being labeled as SHG, though this isn’t true for all.

Tasting Notes for the Lintong Region

  • Location: North-central Sumatra, specifically near Lake Toba in the Lintongnihuta area.
  • Characteristics: Lintong coffee is notably sweet, with a medium body and lower acidity levels. Its aroma is distinctively earthy and complex.
  • Unique Traits: It stands out with its cedar and spice flavors, which are not commonly found in other coffees.
  • Arabica Coffee: The region’s altitude is ideal for growing Arabica coffee beans.
  • Quality Markers: Lintong coffees shine with their unique, clean, and vivid acidity, making them different from other regional varieties. They also have a lighter mouthfeel while maintaining a medium body.

Aceh Region Specialty

  • Unique Offer: Aceh is famous for its unique aged coffee, stored for months or years, evolving and maturing its flavors.
  • Cost Implications: Aging coffee costs more due to storage and management, and there’s a chance some beans might spoil. These factors contribute to a slightly higher price for Aceh coffee.
  • Taste Profile: While its flavor is distinct from regular Sumatran coffee, it’s not necessarily better or worse – it’s just different. Coffee connoisseurs value it for its complexity and rarity.

Market Presence

  • Aceh and Lintong: These regions produce highly sought-after coffee varieties.
  • Lampung Region: Lampung has seen less interest from importers, brokers, and wholesalers in recent times. As a result, its coffee is harder to find in the market.
  • Mandheling Demand: Mandheling coffee, especially, is popular among food-service distributors. Its complex, unique flavor profile makes it a popular, exotic choice in restaurants and cafes.

Sumatra vs Arabica: What’s The Difference?

While Sumatra coffee is primarily Arabica, the key difference lies in its processing and flavor profile. Sumatra’s wet-hulling method and its growing conditions make its flavor bolder and earthier than usual Arabica coffees.

Flavor Profile:

  • Sumatra Coffee: Known for its distinct earthy, spicy, and sometimes woody flavors. It often has a full body with a smooth, rich texture. Besides the unique wet-hulling process, Giling Basah, Sumatra’s coffee stands out for its low acidity. This method also brings out complex flavors like chocolate, licorice, or tobacco.
  • Arabica Coffee: Generally, Arabica beans usually taste sweeter and softer, often with hints of sugar, fruit, and berries. The acidity is higher in Arabica coffee, which contributes to its winey and fruity characteristics. The flavor can also vary significantly based on the region where it’s grown.

Growing Conditions and Regions:

  • Sumatra Coffee: Sumatran coffee, a type of Arabica, is specifically grown on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Sumatran coffee’s flavor is unique, shaped by the region’s tropical climate and volcanic soil. Moreover, their special processing methods also play a key role.
  • Arabica Coffee: Arabica beans thrive in places like Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Each region contributes its unique flair to the beans. Arabica coffee prefers high altitudes, enjoying cooler temperatures and consistent rain for ideal growth. However, the specific conditions of each region shape the distinct flavors of the beans.

Processing Methods:

  • Sumatra Coffee: The most distinctive processing method used in Sumatra is wet-hulling. This process starts by taking off the coffee cherry’s outer skin. Then, the beans slightly ferment before they are washed and dried. This method is partly responsible for the unique flavor profile of Sumatran coffee.
  • Arabica Coffee: Coffee beans are readied in several ways, like washed, natural, and honey methods. Each style deeply influences the bean’s taste. Washed beans taste clean and crisp, while natural ones have a fruity, sweet flavor. However, washed beans are cleaner and more acidic. On the other hand, natural and honey-processed beans bring out a sweeter, fruitier taste.

These differences showcase Sumatra Coffee’s distinct nature within the Arabica category. So, each type presents a unique taste, shaped by its own growing and processing methods.

Processing Sumatra Coffee: A Step-by-Step Guide

Giling Basah or wet hulling is a key process for Sumatra’s coffee. It’s different from natural or dry processing methods in other places like Ethiopia. Let’s break down how it works in step-by-step terms.

  1. Skin Removal: Right after picking, farmers remove the outer skin of the coffee cherry. They use homemade machines for this.
  2. Fermentation in Bags: Once skinned, the beans go into woven bags. They stay there overnight to ferment. This step helps develop the coffee’s flavor.
  3. Washing Off Mucilage: The next morning, farmers wash the beans by hand. They peel away the sticky fruit layer from the bean.
  4. Initial Drying: After washing, farmers dry the beans partially. They do this in their yards. The beans are still in their parchment – a thin layer covering them.
  5. Shipping to Warehouse: Then, the beans are sent to a warehouse. Here, workers remove the parchment. The beans undergo more drying.
  6. Final Drying at Port: Finally, beans reach a port city for export, undergoing one last drying before shipment.

Through these steps, Sumatra’s wet hulling process gives its coffee a distinct flavor and texture, much loved in the coffee world.


Sumatra coffee stands out with its one-of-a-kind taste. In addition, it’s processed in a special way called wet-hulling, creating a deep, earthy flavor. Each part of Sumatra adds its own flavor to the coffee, from spicy to sweet. All types are rich and full-bodied. Sumatra coffee offers a unique taste adventure in every cup, perfect for those seeking a special coffee experience.


Is Sumatra a dark or medium roast?

Sumatra coffee stands out with its dark roast, highlighting strong, earthy flavors. This dark roast produces a rich, full-bodied coffee, loved for its boldness. It’s a hit with fans of hearty, robust brews.

However, there’s more to Sumatra coffee than just dark roasts. You can find it in medium roasts too. These lighter roasts reveal different tastes. They let Sumatra beans’ herbal and spicy flavors shine, offering a layered taste adventure. Whether dark or medium, Sumatra coffee’s unique flavor really makes it special.

What is the difference between Sumatra and Colombian coffee?

Sumatra coffee shines for its full-bodied, earthy character and low acidity. Its unique flavor, marked by herbal and spicy notes, is a result of the wet-hulling process. And, this contributes to the coffee’s notable taste and aroma, making it a unique choice for coffee enthusiasts.

In contrast, Colombian coffee offers a lighter, more balanced flavor with bright acidity. It often showcases nutty or fruity notes due to its high-altitude, diverse climate growing conditions.

In short, each presents a unique taste experience: Sumatra for bold, deep flavors, and Colombian for a cleaner, nuanced cup.

Read more: Discovering Guatemalan Coffee Beans

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